R.M.S. Titanic: Timeline Chronology

December 1, 2017 by


  • 31 March 1909: Laid down
  • 31 May 1911: Launched
  • 31 March 1912: Completed
  • 2 April 1912: Sea trials (Belfast Lough and the Irish Sea)
  • 12.15, 10 April 1912: Sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York via Cherbourg, France and Queenstown, Ireland
  • 18.35, 10 April 1912: Arrived Cherbourg
  • 20.10, 10 April 1912: Sailed from Cherbourg
  • 11.30, 11 April 1912: Arrived Queenstown
  • 13.30, 11 April 1912: Sailed from Queenstown
  • 09.00, 14 April 1912: First ice warning, received from Caronia
  • 23.40, 14 April 1912: Collision with iceberg
  • 00.45, 15 April 1912: Wireless call for assistance, first transmission, using code CQD. Transmission altered to the new code SOS, first use of this code by a passenger liner.
  • 02.10, 15 April 1912: Last transmission
  • 02.20, 15 April 1912: Titanic foundered
  • 04.10, 15 April 1912: First lifeboat picked up by Carpathia
  • 21.25, 18 April 1912: Carpathia docked in New York
  • 1 September 1985: Titanic wreck site located, approx 2.5 miles below the Atlantic, by a joint French/USA expedition



Titanic Tablet Memorial Greenwich

November 10, 2017 by


It was her engineers who kept the lights burning, and in the list of heroes who went down with the vessel the names of the men of the engineering force will have a high place. Not one of them was saved, although many of them were off duty, and these had some chance of climbing to the deck. While it will never be known just what happened, it is believed that every one went back to his post instead of to the decks. ~ The New York Times, Tuesday 23 April 1912

Beyond the immediate traumatic circumstances and bereavement, for the families of the engineers there was an immediate financial impact from the sinking of the Titanic. Families had lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother.  Widows were left with children to raise and homes to run, in the midst of their own personal loss and grief, deprived of the only income the family received.  Recognising the plight of the bereaved families of the engineers a fund was established by the Daily Chronicle newspaper. The Institute of Marine Engineers, the professional body of marine engineers, was appointed to administer the fund.

The fund, the Guild of Benevolence, shared the monies amongst the families and descendants of the engineers. The Titanic Engineers were amongst the Institute’s members and their loss was keenly felt amongst their fellow engineers. Seeking to recognise the bravery and heroism of their colleagues lost aboard the Titanic, the Institute of Marine Engineers commissioned a memorial recording the names of the engineers lost aboard the Titanic. Today, the Guild’s remit has widened to provide relief and support to the widows and descendants of marine engineers who would otherwise have no other means of financial support. It is the only charity in existence today with direct connections to the charitable response to the Titanic disaster.

The Institute of Marine Engineers memorial is in the form a large, decorative bronze plaque. The memorial carries the following inscription:

This tablet is dedicated to the memory of the engine room staff of the S.S. “Titanic” who gave their lives at the post of duty when the vessel sank after striking an iceberg on April 15th, 1912.

 Joseph Bell, Chief Engineer. Alfred S. Allsop, George A. Chisnall, Francis E. G. Coy, Henry P. Creese, Edward C. Dodd, Renney W. Dodd, William L. Duffy, Henry R. Dyer, Alfred G. Ervine, W. E. Farquharson, Hugh Fitzpatrick, James Fraser, Norman Harrison, Herbert G. Harvey, J. H. Hesketh, Charles Hodge, Leonard Hodgkinson, George. F. Hosking, Herbert Jupe, William Kelly, Thomas H. Kemp, W. D. Mackie, William Mc. Reynolds, William Y. Moyes, Alfred P. Middleton, Robert Miller, Thomas Miller, Frank Parsons, Arthur J. Rous, Jonathan Shepherd, Peter Sloan, James M. Smith, Arthur Ward, Bertie Wilson.


The base of the memorial is inscribed by the name of the sculptor, Scottish artist George Alexander (1881-1942). The memorial dates from 1916. It was originally on permanent display in the foyer of the Institute of Marine Engineers Memorial Building at 76 Mark Lane in the City of London. The Institute moved from the building to 80 Coleman Street in 1999, whereupon the Memorial Building was demolished to make way for 78 Fenchurch Street, a 16-floor office block building.

The memorial was subsequently loaned to the National Maritime Museum and it was put on display during the summer of 2013. The memorial can be found on the southwest stairwell between the first floor ‘Traders’ gallery and second floor ‘Ships of War’ gallery.

Description: On top of the memorial a relief of Neptune’s head flanked by polar bears. Within a broken pediment a relief of the sinking vessel. The inscription is flanked by two reliefs of engineer officers. On the base of the memorial, a roundel with the Institute badge and the legend: ‘INSTITUTE OF MARINE ENGINEERS’. This is surrounded by a globe, compass rose and rivits. It is enclosed by laurel branches.
Type: Wall memorial
Materials: Bronze
Artists: George Alexander
Vessel: RMS Titanic

Notes: George Alexander (1881-1942. The memorial was erected with part of a fund set up by the Institute and the ‘Daily Chronicle’ to help the families of the engineer officers on ‘Titanic’. On loan to the Museum from the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology, Mark Lane, London, England.

Engine Department Heroes

October 28, 2017 by

The organisational structure of Titanic had been established over many centuries, and so the traditional trades that were hired for Titanic were mostly indentified as being appropriate for either THE DECK DEPARTMENT, ENGINE DEPARTMENT OR VICTUALLING DEPARTMENT.

The Engine Department was the youngest department and had only been established since the introduction of artificial propulsion for ships, in the case of steam c.1838. Steam was responsible for the generation of energy for the ship’s engines and electrical power with Titanic’s Engine Department being staffed by 325 men, 36% of the total Titanic crew. 253 of the Engine Department lost their lives.

Chief Engineer Joseph Bell headed the Engine Department with Senior Second Engineer William Edward Farquharson as his representative. The importance that White Star placed in the engine department is illustrated by the wages and conditions that were agreed. The engineers had, besides their own mess, a separate smoking room on the boat deck and their own promenade section.

Chief Engineer Bell had the largest cabin with bedroom and living quarters. He was the only member of the crew besides the captain to have his own bath.

Besides Captain Smith who received an annual salary of £1250 approx, there were about fifty men aboard Titanic who earned £10 or more monthly, twenty-two of them were in the Engine Department. Joseph Bell as chief engineer, and Senior Second Engineer William Edward Farquharson, his representative, were paid £35 and £22 monthly respectively. Joseph Bell was in charge of the entire Engine Department, and Farquharson was responsible for the engine-room men analogous to the jurisdiction of the chief officer in the Deck Department. The wages bill for a round trip from Southampton to New York for thirty days, for the Engine Department, would be £1506.00

The collision with the iceberg in the night hours made new demands of an organisation that was running a normal routine. The crew did their jobs; not like the daily routine but for the first time an emergency drill that was the real thing. Not all knew how they were supposed to act in this situation, they just did what they must have considered to be their duty, and we know that they were also heroes.

Six hundred and eighty-seven crew members did not survive that night. Almost 46 per cent of all Titanic lives lost belonged to the crew.

For those who would like further information please see  “Guide to the Crew of Titanic” by Gunter Babler, 2017.

Joseph Bell Memorial St Faith's Church Crosby Merseyside

Joseph Bell Memorial in St Faith’s Church, Crosby, Merseyside. Funded by his wife Maud Bell, and unveiled on 6th January 1913


Sale of recovered final letter

October 23, 2017 by

Mr Alexander Oskar  Holverson and his wife Mary were passengers on R.M.S. Titanic, Mr Holverson died but his wife was rescued.  The letter written on the 12th but dated the 13th of April by Mr Holverson to his mother for posting on arrival in New York, was found in his pocket book on his  subsequently recovered  body.

The letter stained by saltwater from the Atlantic Oceon and embossed with the White Star emblem, has to be the vey last letter written aboard Titanic.  Mr Holverson’s letter was eventually delivered to its intended recipient his mother.  The family decided to sell the letter at an auction that was held on the 21st of October ’17.  An unknown purchaser paid the sum of £126000.00 pounds for the letter.


Reported John Bell Land Dispute 1867

June 13, 2017 by

This is an abridged version of the newspaper report under, and has been researched by Ann Freer adding to the diverse Bell family history.


Friday February 22nd 1867

Cumberland Spring Assizes

“A posse of policemen, under the superintendence of Inspector Taylor, kept the passage from the railway station clear from the platform to the Sheriff’s carriage, which was awaiting The Judges. Four highly caparisoned bays drew the carriage, and the riders and footmen were arrayed in plush.

Mr Justice Shee in the Nisi Prius Court heard the case of Disputed Ownership of a piece of Common Land. John Bell v John Hyslop and wife.

Mr Pickering, Q.C. with Mr Kemplay appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr Manisty, with whom was Mr Bacon, for the defendants.

This was an action brought by the plaintiff to recover possession of a certain piece of land situated in the parish of Farlam, and in the possession of John Hyslop and Margaret his wife, the defendants Mr Pickering in opening the case, said the plaintiff in this case was John Bell, and the defendants John Hyslop and Margaret his wife. The question which they [the jury] would have to try was in reference to a quantity of land somewhere about 86 acres, which was situated at Farlam, and which had been allotted under the *Enclosure Act of 1780.

About the year 1780, after the Enclosure Act this land, part of some waste or common, was enclosed, and three allotments were made, one to a person named Elliot, the second to James Warwick, and the third to Joseph Warwick. How long those persons retained possession it was not known; but ultimately the great-grandfather of the present claimant became possessed of them. In addition to that allotment he had a farm in the same parish, consisting of about 140 acres. Old Thomas and his son Joseph subsequently occupied the allotments made to Elliot, and the two Warwicks.

This happened somewhere about the year 1780 or 1800, when James and Joseph Bell were living together. It appeared that Joseph, son of James Bell, married in the first instance a woman named Jenny Moses who would be spoken to as his wife “Jenny”. In the year of 1812, James Bell died. Before he died he made a will, which bore the date of January 1783, and which left the land to his son Joseph. Before old James died in 1812, Thomas Bell’s first wife Jenny died, and he married again a woman named Mary Bell. He had no children by his first wife Jenny. They lived together at the farmhouse at West Farlam. Old Thomas and Joseph still continued to manage the farm. There was no question about his occupation of the land. He continued to live there until the year 1836 when he died, leaving apparently all the lands he had received from his father, who left them in strict Entail subject to power of appointment. This will bore the date 1827, he having died about eleven years after. Mentioned in the will was the purchase of the allotments in question from Elliot and the two Warwicks. The second Joseph Bell died in July 1849. After his death three sons lived together on the same farm, and continued to cultivate 140 acres, and the 90 acres, which formed the subject of dispute. The question for their consideration was whether this land was within the power of the second Joseph Bell to dispose of as he liked.

The first witness called was John Bird, a deaf old man, resident at Farlam who said he knew John Bell. The land in dispute was on Farlam Common. When he first knew John Bell he was farming the property he now farmed. Mr Hyslop held the land on the Common now. He knew the wife of Joseph Bell, who after her husband’s death lived with her son Joseph.

Mr Mansty, after some few prefatory observations, said it was quite true that in 1780 the common in question was divided into the three allotments. They were also agreed that the 86 acres of the land was the part of those three allotments which was furthest away from the Kirkhouse road, and which was part of the dispute. The other part adjoining the road, as had been proved, was the property of Mrs Thompson. After tracing the history of the property, the learned council said the jury would see that the land in dispute belonged in succession to John Bell of Boon Hill, who was brother to Mary, who married Joseph Bell. There is no doubt – it was proved – that John Bell Mary’s brother, was the John Bell of Boon Hill. He would produce the conveyance deed of that part of the three allotments which was made or given on 12th May 1801. John Bell, of Boon Hill, purchased that part of the allotment in question from mortgages of another John Bell of Low Lonning who no doubt must have got it from the three persons to whom the allotments were originally made under the Enclosure Act.

The case was as simple and clear as noonday. In 1801 on the 12th May, Mary Bell, before she married Joseph, bought the piece of land in dispute. He would prove step by step that the land in question had come from the said Mary down to his clients. How came the property to his clients? Joseph Bell, who dies in 1849, gave this common in question to his illegitimate son George, who made a will in favour of his wife Amelia which was absolute. George died in 1856, and Amelia his wife who survived him until 1860. Previous to her death she made a will bequeathing this common to her sister Margaret, wife of the present defendant who conjointly with her husband fulfilled all the acts of ownership.

Mr Manisty having confirmed this statement by the production of the wills referred to by him in his speech.

Mr Pickering said he was not instructed to question the will of the plaintiff’s father, neither was he disposed to do so. Upon this statement the jury were at once directed to return a verdict for the defendants”.


The Inclosure Acts (or “Enclosure Acts” in modern spelling) was a series of United Kingdom Acts of Parliament which enclosed open fields and common land in the country, creating legal property rights to land that was previously considered common.

This account of Bell land ownership in Farlam, would be a little easier to understand if read in conjunction with the Bell Family Tree available here: https://josephbellengineer.wordpress.com/genealogy/


105th Anniversary of the sinking of Titanic & death of Joseph Bell

April 14, 2017 by

A wreath of blue & gold flowers, representing the blue & gold of the the uniform of the engineers, was placed at the Joseph Bell memorial in St. Thomas a Becket Churchyard, Farlam, Cumbria, to mark his death and those of his fellow engineers in the sinking of    R M S Titanic on 15th April 1912.


“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone”

Icebergs still threaten shipping

April 7, 2017 by

As we approach  the 105th anniversary of the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic, and the death of Joseph Bell and his engineers, it is interesting to note that the threat posed by icebergs is still as evident to shipping as they were in 1912 for Titanic.

This piece by Jennifer McDermott appeared in the ‘I’ newspaper today:

“An unusual number of icebergs – more than 400 have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week, forcing vessels  to slow to crawl or take detours of hundreds of miles.

In the waters close to where the Titanic went down in 1912, the huge number of ice floes is forcing ships’ captains to be on their guard.

Experts have blamed strong counter-clockwise winds that are drawing the icebergs south, and also global warming, which is accelerating the process by which chunks of the Greenland ice sheet break off and float away.

On Monday, there were about 450 icebergs near Newfoundland’s Grand Banks, up from 37 a week earlier, according to the US Coast Guard’s International Ice Patrol in New London, Connecticut. The average for this time of year is about 80.

Commander Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she had never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time.  Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said.

Ms McGrath is predicting a fourth consecutive “extreme ice season” with more then 600 icebergs in the shipping lanes.  Transatlantic vessels are being forced to take detours that can add about 400 miles to the trip”




Apprenticeships 1876-1912: Harland & Wolff & R & H Stephenson

March 11, 2017 by

Joseph Bell, aged 15 began his apprenticeship in 1876 with R & H Stephenson & Co, Shipyard, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne as an ‘engine fitter at works apprentice’. He completed his apprenticeship in 1881, aged 20.

Amongst the conditions of indenture were, not to damage or waste materials or goods belonging to his employers, neither was fornication, getting married, playing cards, dice, or any other unlawful games were not allowed. Beyond the pale were visits to taverns, alehouses or playhouses.

The first year apprentices were paid 8 shillings a week with an annual increase of 2 shillings if they had been diligent and until the five years indenture was completed. Lastly there was to be no liquor or smoking on the premises – it was pretty tough going for ten bob a week I think.

Thirty-one years later in 1912, Francis [Frank] Bell followed in his father’s footsteps by joining Harland & Wolff, probably as a premium apprentice. Being a premium apprentice would be as a ‘shipyard pupil’. Frank’s father. Joseph, would have made a payment to Harland & Wolff for Frank to be indentured by them.

Thomas Andrews, the Titanic naval architect, who was aged 16 on the 1st of May 1889, began his premium apprenticeship at the Harland Wolff shipyard. This was the period of huge ships construction by the White Star Line for their Atlantic service. As a sixteen year old, the change from school and home to the exacting discipline of the shipyard must have been hard. Living in Belfast, he would have been awakened at ten minutes to five and had to be in the shipyard promptly at six o’clock.

The first three months would be spent in the joiner’s shop, followed by a month in the Cabinetmakers, there then would be two months or so working in the ships followed by two months in the main store; then five with the Shipwrights, two in the Moulding loft, two with the Painters, eight with the iron Shipwrights, six with the fitters, three with the Pattern-makers, eight with the Smiths. Finally a period of eighteen months to be spent in the Drawing office completed his five years as an apprentice in 1894.

SS Britannic & SS Oceanic

March 3, 2017 by

Joseph Bell’s second and third Engineering appointments were to Britannic & Oceanic respectively.  For those who are interested, here are detailed descriptions of these ships.

SS Britannic the transatlantic screw steamer was built of iron and launched in February 1874, by Harland & Wolff in Belfast, and making her maiden voyage to New York from Liverpool on the 25th June 1874 the service provided by the Ocean Steam Navigation Co Ltd., or White Star Line.  On her maiden voyage, she broke both the eastbound and westbound records with passages of less than 7.5 days at an average speed of 15.7 knots. She held the Blue Riband from 1876 – 1879.  She remained in the service of the White Star Line until 1899, after which she was requisitioned  by the Royal Navy and converted for use as a Troopship taking soldiers to the Boer War in South Africa.  Until the war ended in 1902, she had transported around 37000 troops to and from the conflict.

The Britannic and her sister ship, the Germanic [1875], were a great advance on the six mail steamers which preceded them in the fleet.  Their small ratio of beam to length, characteristics of the early White Star liners, was at first criticised , but the public soon patronised the ‘narrow ships’.  The main saloon was placed amidships, an innovation introduced by Mr Thomas H Ismay.  Accommodation was provided for approx. 1200 passengers, and the crew consisted of around 130 men.

The Britannic was rigged as a four-masted barque.  She had two funnels, and was propelled by inverted compound-expansion engines of 4970 h.p.  These were constructed by Messrs Maudslay, Sons and Field, at Lambeth, as the Belfast yards were unable to produce heavy machinery.  The two high-pressure cylinders 48″ diam., and two low-pressure cylinders 48″ in diam., and the two low-pressure cylinders 83″ in diam., were arranged in tandem pairs with the former on top; the stroke was 60″.

Steam at a pressure of 70 lbs per sq. inch was supplied by eight double-ended oval boilers, with a total heating surface of 19,500 sq. ft.  The screw propeller, which rotated at 52 revs per min, was 23.5 ft diam., and 28 to 31.5 ft pitch.  The normal speed of the vessel was about 15 knots.

Principle dimensions of Britannic were as follows:  Gross register, 5004 tons; displacement, loaded, 9100 tons;  length over all, 468 ft; length between perps, 455 ft; breadth, 45.2 ft; depth to main deck, 33.7 ft.

SS Oceanic being Joseph Bells third appointment, was the last British transatlantic liner to be launched in the 19th century.  She was launched on the 14th of January 1899 by Harland & Wolff in Belfast  built of steel and engined there,  making her maiden voyage  from Liverpool to New York on the 6th of September 1899.  She was fitted with electric lights and had the facility of refrigeration.  This was the first White Star ship to experience a mutiny on board.  The event resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of thirty-five coal stokers who were very unhappy with the commanding officers about their working conditions.

The hull was subdivided by 13 transverse water-tight bulkheads about 49ft apart, while a longitudinal bulkhead, 97 ft long, divided the port and starboard engine-rooms.  There was a cellular double bottom, which extended the whole length of the ship, and included nine longitudinal girders.  The double bottom was 5.1 ft deep, except in the vicinity of the engines, where its depth was increased by 2 ft.  The frames, for about two-thirds of the length amidships, were of channel section 9″ by 4.5″ by 4″ spaced 31.5 in apart; but towards the ends, these were replaced by frames of angle and reverse-angle riveted to each other.  The plating, which was of steel, varied from 1″ to 1.4 “.  There were seven plated decks, five of which were continuous from stem to stern.  Accommodation was provided for 410 first-class, 300 second-class, and 1000 third-class passengers; a total compliment of 390 officers and crew were carried.

The vessel was propelled by two sets of triple-expansion engines, which indicated 28000 total h.p.  Each set had four cylinders, one high-pressure 47.5 in diam., one intermediate 79” in diam., and two low-pressure each 93 in diam., all with a common stroke of 6 ft.  The reversing was effected by combined steam and hydraulic power.  Steam at a pressure of 192 lb per sq. in, was supplied by 15 return-tube boilers, 12 of which were double-ended, and three single-ended.  The larger boilers were 16.5 ft diam, and their total weight 1100 tons.  The twin-propellers, 22.2 ft diam, had gun-metal bosses and three manganese bronze blades, and were fitted very close together; an aperture in the stern frame allowed for this.  The propeller shafting was of hollow steel and 25.2 in diam.  On trial, the vessel attained a speed of more than 20 knots.

The Oceanic had bunker accommodation for 3700 tons of coal, sufficient to enable her to steam 24000 miles at a speed of 12 knots, and was built under Admiralty supervision for use as an auxiliary cruiser if necessary.  The vessel was wrecked off the north of Scotland in September 1914.

Principle dimensions of the Oceanic were as follows:  gross register, 17040 tons; displacement at load draught, 28500 tons; length over all 704 ft; length between perps., 685.7 ft; extreme breadth, 68.4 ft; depth, 49 ft.





















Titanic & National Coal Strike 1912

February 21, 2017 by

In April 1912, the effects of the coal strike were felt in the coaling of Titanic prior to her departure from Southampton. In order for Titanic to have sufficient supplies of coal for the voyage, Oceanic was laid up in the Port to facilitate this.

The average working man’s week in 1912 would consist of 56 hours. A skilled workingman in a full year would earn around £100 a year being just enough to raise a family. By contrast a crewman on Titanic would hope, with good health and regular work to earn about £60 a year enabling him to survive. It is also interesting that in 1900, 40% of recruits to the armed services were rejected on grounds of ill health.

The Poor Law introduced in 1834 was a last desperate means of assistance and in 1912, 780,000 in England & Wales were receiving relief. Over half were inmates in residential institutions as in hospital, asylum or workhouse where they were clothed and fed. Children would receive some schooling and in return for this care, all workhouse paupers would have to work for several hours each day. The poor themselves hated and feared the threat of the workhouse so much that there were riots in northern towns.

The growth of Trade Union membership accelerated between 1900 and 1913 from two million to just over four million. In 1912 over 40 million days were lost through strikes. The coal strike of the hard winter of 1912 that lasted from February to April impacted on thousands who died from hypothermia, and resulted in over one million to be out of work. Merchant seamen were affected too as a consequence of ships being laid up.

Dockworkers and seafarers in this period were casually employed, and had to routinely queue at the Dock gates each morning for work. Despite the poverty and unfairness in 1912, employment opportunities in the service sector and new industries were expanding, offering more reliable sources of employment leading up to the outbreak of WW1.